Calling out American Jewish Council
by Kathryn Shihadah
AJC, the American Jewish Committee, released a statement last Friday rejecting the recent report from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The AJC statement includes decontextualizations and inaccuracies that deserve to be addressed. Below is their statement, with responses in italics.
“AJC denounces the latest UN Human Rights Council report singling out Israel for condemnation. The report was prepared by an “independent international commission of inquiry” established by the Council to investigate the violence that took place along the Gaza-Israel border from March 30 to December 31, 2018.”
Note: the “violence that took place along the Gaza-Israel border” is essentially one-sided: a nonviolent protest by Palestinians has been met week after week for almost a year by Israeli sniper fire, resulting in the deaths of at least 250 Palestinians. One Israeli soldier and zero Israeli civilians have been killed.
AJC on "provocation"
“True to form, the commission of inquiry has exhibited a myopic view of the situation in Gaza, largely ignoring Hamas’s repeated provocations and attacks against Israel and almost exclusively blaming Israel,” said Daniel Elbaum, AJC Chief Advocacy Officer.
Here are three examples of “Hamas’ repeated provocations and attacks” (we invite AJC to provide other examples that implicate Hamas in serious incidents):
During the first nine weeks of weekly protests at the Great March of Return, Gazan militants released no rockets, although at least 118 Palestinians were killed and 13,000 injured by Israeli snipers; the number of Israeli casualties was ZERO.
Then, on May 29th, several factions in Gaza had enough and began FOR THE FIRST TIME shooting rockets toward Israel. These rockets - nine weeks and 118 deaths into the conflict - were considered “provocation” by Israel and mainstream news outlets. Israel ”responded” to the “provocation” with a wave of airstrikes.
As of November 11th, over 200 Palestinians and one Israeli had been killed, but it looked like the conflict was about to end in peace: a UN- and Egypt-brokered ceasefire was almost in place. That night, a carload of Israeli soldiers infiltrated Gaza and were discovered. The Israeli forces managed to escape under cover of a massive airstrike. A total of 7 Palestinians and 1 Israeli were killed. The ceasefire hopes evaporated.
(Some of the Palestinians killed over the course of the Great March had approached the Israel border - many were not even close - but Israel actually breached the Gaza border, and still Palestinians suffered the most casualties.)
At times during the Great March of Return (a grassroots movement, not Hamas), Gazans have fashioned incendiary kites and balloons, which they have ignited and sent into the air toward Israel. Many have landed in Israeli farmland and caused crop damage. No one has been killed or injured by the kites or balloons. Neither the 11-year blockade, nor the deaths of unarmed protesters was considered provocation, but the so-called “terror kites” were.
Israel and its supporters regularly start the narrative at a point after Israel’s crimes and treat Palestinian resistance as the initial event.
AJC on "withdrawal from Gaza"
“The [UN] commission deliberately ignores the facts that Israel totally withdrew from the Gaza Strip (and not only from Israeli settlements) in 2005, transferred it to the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas has ruled the coastal enclave since 2007, persistently threatening and attacking neighboring Israel.
While Israel did withdraw from the illegal settlements inside Gaza, an inescapable Israeli military presence remains: a fence with watchtowers surrounds Gaza; Israel controls the main border crossings and maritime borders; Israel controls fishing off the coast of Gaza, as well as the airspace above Gaza. Israel is even constructing an “underground wall” and an underwater barrier.
Israel controls the flow of supplies into Gaza, having put a stringent blockade in place that has led to a humanitarian crisis due to lack of food, medicine, and other critical items. This is nothing like “total withdrawal.”
Hamas’ “persistent threats and attacks” - mostly in the form of rockets for 18 years - killed 17 Israelis during peacetime and 27 during times of conflict.
AJC on "restraint"
“Israel has shown more restraint than nearly any other nation would demonstrate against an organized attempt to breach its border and endanger its civilians.”
Israel has not in recent memory shown “restraint” or proportionality toward Gaza. Israel has launched three major incursions into Gaza, killing over 3,700 Palestinians (in those same hostilities, 87 Israelis died). In between these “wars,” from 2000 to the present, over 3,500 Palestinians in Gaza (and about 150 Israelis) have been killed. This is not what “restraint” looks like.
The “organized attempt to breach Israel’s border” was in reality an unarmed demonstration, during which some young Palestinians rushed the fence. Few if any of the Palestinians killed presented a real danger - especially given that Israeli soldiers were wearing battle gear, and hidden behind dirt mounds or inside tanks.
Many videos are available which show Gazans being shot while standing still, helping the injured, running away from the border, or taking photos. At least one man was shot while praying. AJC is invited to comment on the “restraint” demonstrated by these actions.
AJC on "UN bias"
“Since its founding in 2006, the Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, has repeatedly singled out and censured Israel.”
It is undeniable that the United Nations censures Israel repeatedly. This does not negate the truth of those censures. Since Israel exists because of UN action that stripped Palestinians of self-determination, the UN may feel obligated to ensure some restoration of justice for the Palestinian people - and Israel belligerently refuses to comply.
“Most egregious is the Council’s agenda Item 7, which subjects Israel to permanent indictment. Israel is the only country that is subject to a separate, stand-alone agenda item, while human rights violations in every other nation are considered collectively under agenda item 4. The new report of the Council’s commission of inquiry is consistent with this pattern of bias.”
Most egregious not that the Council HAS a permanent agenda item for Israel’s human rights abuses, but that the situation REQUIRES a permanent agenda item. If a global body finds it necessary to repeatedly discuss human rights violations, the implications of occupation, and the right of Palestinian people to self determination - then the problem isn’t with the global body, but with Israel.
AJC conspicuously did not reject the accusation of human rights abuse, only the “singling out” of agenda item 7. It also noted that other abusers are not overlooked, but are addressed elsewhere in the Council agenda.
The new report is consistent, not with a pattern of bias in the HRC, but with Israeli failure to remedy its unjust treatment of Palestinians.
AJC is invited to discuss Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinian people.
AJC on other "distortions"
AJC continues by listing “Key facts ignored or distorted by the commission of inquiry,” which can be summed up as follows:
Hamas uses rockets, mortars, and tunnels to “penetrate Israel and kill Israeli civilians.” (No civilians and only one Israeli solder have been killed in a tunnel raid. Rocket casualties are discussed above.)
The March of Return was coordinated by Hamas to cause Palestinian death, and then to blame Israel, which was simply defending its borders. (The March is a grassroots movement; Palestinians do not have a death wish; Israel is using disproportionate force - and AJC is dehumanizing Palestinians and blaming the victim.)
Any future Palestinian state requires negotiation with Israel. (Palestinians want a genuine partner with whom to negotiate. Israel is not such a partner: while claiming to seek peace, it continues to appropriate land for settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it continues to defy international law and UN resolutions, it wars against Gaza, and it treats the rest of the Palestinian population as second-class citizens. Why would Palestinians trust such a partner? The US is not an honest or impartial broker, especially after giving away Jerusalem without Palestinian input. Why would Palestinians trust such a mediator?)
Resolution 194 (“right of return”) is unacceptable because Israel would no longer be Jewish. (The right of return is a universal human right, and Resolution 194 was issued in 1948. The Jewish State should have dealt justly with the Palestinian refugees decades ago. The fact that Palestinians might outnumber Jews is not the fault of the Palestinians. This position on 194 has nothing to do with the Palestinian right of return - only with Jewish supremacy.)
Israel is sending plenty of food and other goods to Gaza every day. (According to the World Food Programme, 69.5% of the population of Gaza are food insecure. UNRWA adds that about 80 per cent of Gazan households depend on food aid. Israel may not have an accurate grasp on the situation.)
“Regrettably, the commission of inquiry chose to ignore realities, preferring instead to follow the all-too-familiar pattern of disproportionately condemning Israel. In so doing, the commission has done a disservice to those who truly seek peace. A comprehensive, sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace can only be achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. Yet, the Palestinian leadership, led by Mahmoud Abbas, walked away from the table five years ago, and refuses to return.”
It would appear from the evidence that Israel and AJC are the ones who “choose to ignore realities.” If Israel is feeling disproportionately condemned, it is because Israel is disproportionately oppressing. And if Israel truly seeks peace, it will stop deflecting criticism, stop hiding behind accusations of “bias” and “anti-Semitism,” and start moving in the direction of justice.
AJC is encouraged to respond.